Naturally increasing your protein intake can be difficult if you don’t know which foods to look for. Whether you eat meat, are vegetarian or vegan, you can easily add more protein to your diet.
Protein is one of the most important nutrients, if you don’t get enough through your diet your health can suffer. Equally, if you eat too much protein without exercising, it will just be stored as fat in the body and will not give you the benefits that you’re potentially looking for.
In the UK, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein intake is based on 0.75g protein for each kilogram you weigh; on average this means that mean should eat 55g protein and women should eat 45g. 1
Whether you’re looking to increase your protein intakes for building muscle or just looking to make sure you reach the RDA, there are many different foods you can incorporate into your meals to give you that extra boost.
Benefits of protein
Eating the RDA (or more if you’re exercising) for protein has benefits that you wouldn’t expect.
The most obvious benefit to eating a lot of protein is that it can help increase muscle mass and strength 2 especially while you are strength training.
Eating more protein can help you lose weight; primarily this is because it helps you feel fuller whilst eating less food meaning that you aren’t actively restricting your diet, but you are eating less. 3
It can also help speed up recovery after an injury as protein forms the building blocks of muscles. 4
Meat is renowned for it’s high protein content and it’s easy to incorporate into meals if you’re an omnivore.
Chicken is easy to cook and high in protein, especially if you eat it without the skin it contains 53g protein. It’s also a versatile meat in which you can generally use it in any type of dish, if you need some inspiration why not try this recipe for Indian spiced lentil and chicken salad?
Lean beef is not only high protein with 22g per 85g serving, it is also loaded with iron and vitamin B12.
Turkey is a great alternative to chicken with very little fat and calories, but turkey mince has 24g protein per 100g of mince! You could try Thai inspired turkey meatballs with turmeric, lemongrass and herb broth; this dish is not only packed with protein, but it also contains the superfood turmeric. This component of the dish has been around thousands of years, especially in India, being used in culinary and healing methods; the active ingredient curcumin is thought to be a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant and could help everything from memory and dementia to joint discomfort.
Veg and other accompaniments
Broccoli is loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, fibre and potassium as well as containing 3g protein per cup, it’s all round incredibly healthy vegetable.
With 21g protein, pinto beans are a great source to add to your meals. Beans are full of fibre, low calories and easy to incorporate into your meals. This North African egg and bean salad includes butter beans and eggs which are full of protein. Half a cup of butter beans is 6g protein and 1 large egg has 6g protein.
Lentils are not only high in protein with 18g per cup, they are also high in fibre, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, copper, manganese and various other nutrients.
Nuts, seeds and grains
Nuts and seeds may be a surprising source of protein, but they are great snacks and full of the good stuff.
Peanuts has 7g protein per ounce (28g), they’re also high in fibre and magnesium. Peanut butter has 25g of protein per 100g!
Pumpkin seeds contain 5g protein per ounce, as well as lots of iron, magnesium and zinc.
While quinoa sits in between being seed or grain, it still has 8g protein per one cup serving and is loaded with antioxidants.
Half a cup of raw oats has 13g protein and is filled with fibre, magnesium and vitamin B1.
Finally, almonds contain 6g per ounce, as well as fibre, vitamin E, manganese and magnesium.
If you struggle to incorporate extra protein into your meals, you can also supplement.
1 British Nutrition Foundation (no date). Protein Nutrition.org.uk.
Pasiakos, S.M., McLellan, T.M. and Lieberman, H.R., (2015). The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports medicine, 45(1), pp.111-131.
Weigle, D.S., Breen, P.A., Matthys, C.C., Callahan, H.S., Meeuws, K.E., Burden, V.R. and Purnell, J.Q., (2005). A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations–. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(1), pp.41-48.
Frankenfield, D., 2006. Energy expenditure and prot